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What is Emotional Sobriety and How Do You Practice It?

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Emotional Sobriety

Physical sobriety means that you abstain from alcohol and drugs. While that’s essential for recovery, emotional sobriety is also important. Emotional sobriety involves being able to regulate your feelings so that you can cope with all aspects of life without returning to drugs.

What Is Emotional Sobriety?

Many people are confused after they complete a rehab program for addiction. They may wonder why they don’t feel happy and free after they stop using drugs. After all, your body starts to balance itself out again after you eliminate the drugs from your system.

But addiction is much more than a physical issue. Emotions play a core role in substance abuse disorders. Many people use drugs or alcohol to cope with distressing emotions. Without the substances as a crutch, your emotions may seem harder to handle.

After you get sober, you might also feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster. Some people behave in ways that produce similar feelings as the drugs did. For example, you might get into impulsive relationships to seek out a different type of high. This can create an entirely different type of addiction. Using unhealthy coping mechanisms to manage your emotions means that you’re not emotionally sober.

What Does Emotional Sobriety Look Like?

Emotional sobriety looks different for everyone. However, it indicates that you can regulate your nervous system in the face of overwhelming feelings. Succumbing to negative emotions is a significant factor in an impending relapse event.

With emotional sobriety, you don’t fly into a rage when something doesn’t go your way. You don’t allow intrusive thoughts to fester and interrupt your daily life. You stop dwelling on the past.

Some ways that emotional sobriety can show up in your life include the following:

  • You feel balanced in your life
  • Unexpected events don’t derail you
  • You’re mindful of the present moment
  • You have strong self-esteem
  • You don’t let other people influence your thoughts, behaviors or emotions
  • You have open and honest relationships with others
  • You participate in meaningful, fulfilling activities
  • You use healthy coping skills to manage your emotions
  • You understand how your habits and routines affect your mood
  • You’re not controlled by your emotional state

What Skills Do You Need for Emotional Sobriety?

A comprehensive long-term residential treatment program will help you develop the skills that you need for emotional sobriety. These include:

  • Self-awareness – The ability to recognize your feelings and notice how they impact your behavior
  • Self-management – The ability to control your emotions, impulses and actions
  • Social awareness – The ability to understand other people’s emotional needs
  • Relationship management – The ability to build relationships that are based on good communication

How to Develop Emotional Sobriety in Recovery

Maintaining emotional sobriety is a practice. You’ll learn about it during your initial phases of treatment. However, you should continue to work toward it to keep it up in the long term.

Continue Treatment

While some people can stay sober without ongoing treatment, most people can’t. Continuing your treatment plan throughout your life is important. Seeing a therapist or counselor regularly helps you learn and practice the skills that are necessary for emotional sobriety. A therapist will help you stay accountable and work through obstacles that may seem to compromise your recovery.

Look at Your Emotions

When life feels hard, it’s easy to stuff down the intense feelings and continue as though nothing is wrong. However, choking off your emotions doesn’t make them less impactful. In fact, unprocessed emotions become trapped in the body. If you don’t look at them, they may rear up in negative ways.

You can become more aware of your emotions by delaying your reactions to them. When you feel a big emotion, stop what you’re doing. If you’re in a conflict with another person, take some time to regroup.

Try to name the emotion. If you can’t do that, observe how it feels in your body. Does it make your chest tight? Does it bring butterflies to your stomach? Is your vision hyper-focused? You may not be able to pinpoint this right away. But go with your intuition. Practicing this will help you become more attuned to your emotions.

After you notice and name your feeling, track it. Does it move throughout your body? Does it shift in intensity when you practice healthy coping mechanisms?

Working through this repeatedly teaches your brain and body awareness. It also limits your ability to get wrapped up in ruminations about the emotions. It takes about 90 seconds for your nervous system to process an emotion. Monitoring the feeling may help you realize that intense emotions subside faster than you think.

Step Into Others’ Shoes

It’s easy to get stuck in a narrow perspective when you’re doing so much work on yourself in recovery. However, you can build your emotional sobriety by expanding your outlook. When you’re dealing with interpersonal relationships, imagine what the other person is going through.

This involves relinquishing some of your own beliefs and values, and embrace personal accountability. It requires you to think about things from another point of view.

Nurturing this skill helps you relate to other people better. Because creating supportive relationships is crucial to recovery, developing this kind of empathy can help you get through hard times. It also allows you to look at your situation from multiple angles. You might come up with new ideas and solutions for dealing with your challenges.

Life isn’t always easy. No one expects you to see everything through rose-colored glasses after you get sober. However, you can gain emotional sobriety to help you manage the hard parts and appreciate the good times. Hard things are going to happen no matter how you feel about them. Therefore, learning how to respond to the ups and downs of life in a healthy way can help you move forward regardless of what is thrown at you.

Burning Tree Ranch Focuses on Emotional Sobriety

Burning Tree Ranch understands the importance of emotional sobriety in recovery. We focus on numerous aspects of emotional sobriety in everything that we do so that you have the best chances of living a fulfilling life.


- SINCE 1999 -

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